A hike in registration by Alcoa residents forced the school district to add an eighth kindergarten teacher, opening about 10 slots for nonresidents.

With 142 kindergartners already enrolled for the Class of 2032, Alcoa City Schools is hiring another teacher to stay within state regulations for student-teacher ratios.

Only four of the 142 are nonresident students, all children of Alcoa teachers. Keeping some slots open for others moving in, Director Brian Bell expects the district to be able to accept perhaps 10 more nonresident kindergartners.

The first grade class is expected to have 150 students.

Squeeze

While plans to expand Alcoa Intermediate School are on hold pending funding from the city, paying the costs so far is dipping into the district’s savings.

Alcoa City Schools temporarily is covering $350,000 of the $1.1 million preconstruction costs so far, with the city of Alcoa covering the remaining $751,311.83.

The city will pay the schools back for the $350,000 once it issues a bond to raise money for the project, Bell explained to the school board during a work session this week, adding that the city didn’t explain why it couldn’t cover the full amount.

“We may not get it back for two years, three years,” he told the school board. “It just depends on whenever they pass the bond related to construction of the intermediate school,” which includes grades three through five.

Money will start flowing to the school district when construction begins.

“What if they don’t ever start it?” board member Steve Marsh asked.

“Well, then, we just wasted $1.1 million planning and designing it,” Bell replied.

“Eventually they’re going to need those classrooms at the intermediate school; there’s no doubt about it. Unless we want portable trailers,” he said. “They’re going to have to build onto the intermediate school.”

“That will be self-evident in a few years,” Bell said, referring to the need to add another kindergarten teacher because of the growth in resident students. “We’re probably going to need (classrooms) before we can start construction.”

To cover the cost for now, Alcoa City Schools will have to dip into its fund balance — revenues on hand that aren’t budgeted for any particular expense.

The state requires a school district to leave an amount equal to at least 3% of operating expenses in its fund balance.

Based on current estimates, spending for the AIS costs will leave the district with $26,533.13 above the minimum in its fund balance in 2019-20, Finance Director Tom Shamblin explained to the board during the work session. “It’s not a big cushion.”

Without the AIS costs, the district would have had nearly $243,000 in revenues above expenses to add to its fund balance this year.

Bell reminded the school board that the total fund balance is estimated to be $706,483.13. “We’ve still got a good, healthy fund balance,” he said.

But if an unexpected expense such as a flood required the district to dip below the 3% threshold, it would need state approval to spend the money.

Herman Thompson Gym

The Board of Education voted during its regular meeting Tuesday to name the competition gym at Alcoa High School the Herman Thompson Gymnasium.

A member of the Class of 1953, Thompson was honored in the initial classes for the Blount County Sports Hall of Fame and Alcoa High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Thompson was the first Blount County athlete to be named All-State in basketball and first from AHS named to any All-State team.

He also holds the AHS record for most points scored in a game, 42 in 1953.

In 2009, the University of Tennessee named him to its All-Century team. He’s in the top 25 all-time scorers at UT.

“The highlight of my day was the call to Herman Thompson,” Bell told the board of notifying Thompson of the recognition Tuesday. “He could not speak for five minutes. He was crying; I was crying.”

The new gymnasium sign may be in place in time for the Alcoa City Schools Foundation Gala on Aug. 17.

In other action this week, the school board approved the second reading of an updated random drug testing policy. Under the new policy, urine tests will replace the saliva tests Alcoa has used since 2016.

Students will have up to two hours to produce a 30-milliliter sample or they will be considered to have a positive result. If they want to appeal the result, the student, parent or guardian will have to pay for a retest of the urine sample or a hair follicle test.

The board also approved the first reading of a new truancy policy, based on updates in state law and recommendations from the Blount County Juvenile Court for progressive intervention plans.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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